By Sophia Huang McKenzie
On a sunny fall morning at Lincoln Elementary in Salinas, the students in Elizabeth Matos and Gabriela Suarez’s third-grade class are sitting together in a corner of the classroom, listening intently to a story. Matos reads to them from “Charlotte’s Web,” the beloved children’s classic about Wilbur the pig and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte.
It’s a part of the day that every student in any elementary school will likely tell you is one of their favorites, next to recess and lunchtime. But something’s notably different about this storytime. Matos is reading to the students in Spanish.
A little later the students will answer questions, review vocabulary words, and work on a math lesson, also in Spanish. In fact, both the students and teachers will speak only Spanish all morning. At the designated time in the afternoon, they will switch to speaking only English for the remainder of the day.
It’s an educational model called dual language immersion. It integrates students from English-speaking backgrounds and Spanish-speaking or bilingual backgrounds for the entire school day.
“I love this environment. The dual-language immersion is awesome,” Suarez said. “The students are learning two languages at the same time, … and they’re learning from each other, and it’s wonderful.”
Suarez, who co-teaches with Matos, holds a bilingual authorization from CSUMB’s College of Education and is working toward her teaching credential.